Below is a guest blog post from Scott, one of our patients…
As an advertising Creative Director who’s been in the business for close to 20 years, I thought I understood and knew incredibly stressful work. But I had never thought about whether or not it applied to other professions until Saturday, September 15, 2011, when I was rushed to Reston Hospital Center suffering heart arrhythmia and ventricular tachycardia.
After many uneasy hours stabilizing me – at roughly 7:00 a.m., a doctor I had never met informed me that I had a rare disease called Sarcoidosis, which was affecting my lungs and heart, and that there was a chance I would need a heart transplant.
My first thought was of my family and the sadness of not being there for them. My second thought was about all the doctors and nurses who had been attending to me throughout the somewhat unsettling night.
Since that day in 2011, a lot has happened. I have received an ICD (implanted cardiovascular device). Basically an internal version of the paddles you always see on television when someone flat lines: CLEAR. That device soon thereafter went off two consecutive nights, saving my life. And soon after that I underwent an ablation surgery to burn through some of the scar tissue in my heart to stop the v-tach … and hopefully any future shocks.
(An aside. Having a defibrillator go off is akin to having a horse with electrified shoes kick you in your chest. I played both football and rugby in college, and this made those 250 pound linebackers feel like masseuses.)
During all the truly critical months, I put my trust and my life in many strangers’ hands. When you’re in the shape I was, you don’t have the luxury of choices and second or third opinions. You generally are visited by swarms of doctors who agree on what needs to be done immediately, and, if you’re lucky a priest, rabbi or chaplain. After visiting with me, I could see why the three might walk into a bar.
But the amazing thing about this time in my life was that I kept asking myself the same question: are these doctors and nurses having fun? I have but one life to live, but on any given night they’re seeing dozens of people and actually saving dozens of lives. Or treating the elderly. Or fixing broken bones. Or calming shaken nerves. Or delivering tough news to loved ones.
They’re also dealing with friendly people, unfriendly people, young and old, rich and poor. And some who simply cannot be defined. I saw and heard all of the aforementioned. And at times I wondered if I could remain compassionate.
For the most part I tried to ask smart questions and follow the advice of people who obviously studied far harder than I did in math and science class. But were they having fun? Or was this, like advertising, a stressful job that sometimes had rewards and sometimes had you wishing you lived high in the mountains away from all humanity?
So I started asking the doctors and nurses. And they were wonderfully honest. Turns out, just like any job, there are good days and there are bad. Doctors and nurses are just like lawyers and truck drivers and teachers … even Creative Directors. There are days you feel like you’re on top of the world … and there are days you wish you could fake your own death.
But what struck me most – beyond the honesty and candor – was that, whether they were having a good day or a bad day, the doctors and nurses I was seen by at Reston hospital all agreed that good days or bad, the patient is what matters most.
When I was in pain, they took measures to relieve it. When I had questions, they answered them. When I was scared, they found ways to comfort me.
Since my ablation surgery I have not received any more “treatments” from my ICD. I am now able to jog up to three miles. I’ve been back at work for a little over 5 months. And I can actually joke about my condition, though it often makes others uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, due to the severity of my condition at the time, I don’t know the names of all the employees who helped me. And if my writing this article does anything whatsoever (and should the casual reader still be with me at this point), I hope at least some of those employees understand how much I appreciate their expertise, their compassion and their ability to forget about the traffic, the lack of sleep or whatever it was that got on their last nerve that day. Your ability to put my needs first, along with the woman to my left and the man across the hall, and that young, frightened child who was spending her first night away from her family, is nothing short of commendable.
My clients come to me with problems to solve and opportunities to make money. The hours are sometimes long. The feedback is sometimes painful. But I’m still having fun.
But not a single day goes by when I don’t appreciate the efforts of everyone at Reston Hospital. What they do on a day-to-day basis isn’t just a job. And I truly appreciate that they can’t just write it off as a bad day. Or ever let their guard down and say it’s just a job.